Why Vacations Matter

Jaimie, Hayden and Wayne Hutchison near the waterBy Jaimie Hutchison

Anyone who knows me knows that I love a vacation. I have never met one I did not like. For me, the reason is simple: I get quality time with people who are most important to me in my life. We can leave our daily homework, work, chores, emails, puppy duties, meal prep, or whatever else keeps us busy and just get away. Starting back at MSU last year, my vacation accruement reset. This was one of the hardest adjustments that I had to make. Time is so precious to me. I have carefully planned to take advantage of every paid holiday and save vacation time for family trips. But, aside from quality time with the ones you choose to spend time with, why do vacations matter?

Research shows that Americans work more hours than anyone in the industrialized world. We need to be sure we are taking care of our physical, emotional, and relationship health. 

Vacations relieve stress. Chronic stress can be destructive to our health. Vacating or mitigating our everyday “bad” stress gives us a break from high levels of stress and gives us a chance to repair some of the damage. 

Vacations help us maintain focus. Continuous work with no breaks or vacations can make people feel distracted and they often have trouble concentrating. Surveys show that 75% of people who vacation regularly feel energized and more ready to check things off  their to-do lists. 

Vacations strengthen relationships. This is my experience. Last weekend, my family went to Chicago to see Hugh Jackman perform, then we spent all day Saturday exploring new areas of Chicago, walking along the lakeshore, watching people, and enjoying a free music festival. At the end of the weekend, we had shared experiences and an appreciation for time spent together. We had time to experience things together without distractions.

If you have trouble tuning out the work waiting for you when you return, there are some things you can do to help you. First, make a plan to “tune out” from work. Try your best to reduce the workload upon your return from vacation. Organize your office before you leave so that you come back to a clean environment. Get through those emails before you leave, set an out-of-office response so people know you are away, and direct them to someone who is able to assist them while you are out. If you have to work while you are away, set a time of day to do that and then don’t check your email again. This way, you can be responsive in case an issue arises, but you are not checking your phone 52 times a day. Set clear boundaries and let your work family know that you are going to focus on the people you are traveling with. Trust them to assist while you are away and respect your boundaries.

If you need more tips, check out takebackyourtime.org. If you don’t have a lot of vacation time, but you want the wellness benefits, be sure to take breaks at work to unplug and take advantage of any time you have. Weekends, or an evening spent away from work doing something you enjoy, can promote some of the same wellness benefits.

If you feel your work-life fit is off track and you want to talk about how to get it back on track, email worklife@msu.edu and set up a consultation. We are here to help!

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Kasser, T., & Sheldon, K. M. (2009). Time affluence as a path toward personal happiness and ethical business practice: Empirical evidence from four studies. Journal of Business Ethics: JBE; Dordrecht, 84, 243–255. http://dx.doi.org.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/10.1007/s10551-008-9696-1

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